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Wormingford/Stanway: Mother’s plea to keep ‘vital’ respite centre open

PUBLISHED: 13:00 27 February 2014

Lorraine Woodhouse says  the overnight stays her severely autustic son Aidan takes at   Lavender House gives her family a

Lorraine Woodhouse says the overnight stays her severely autustic son Aidan takes at Lavender House gives her family a "vital" break from caring for him.

A mother of a severely autistic boy has made a plea to keep a “vital” respite centre open following a consultation to review Essex County Council’s overnight short breaks service for children and young people with disabilities.

Lorraine Woodhouse from Wormingford near Colchester says the four times each month that her son, seven-year old Aidan, stays overnight at Lavender House in Stanway is the only break her family gets from caring for him.

But she fears this service might be withdrawn after one of the options detailed in the consultation was the closure of the centre.

The council, which is due to publish its response to the consultation any day now, says Lavender House will only close if a suitable alternative can be found.

Mrs Woodhouse said: “Aidan still wears a nappy, is autistic and has learning difficulties. He is also prone to self-harming, biting and hitting, and we have to screw down the furniture in our house.”

“I have three other sons, who are all healthy, and we never get a chance to do anything as a family because one of us has to look after Aidan. We can’t go to zoos or fun parks because he can’t stand the noise. But when Aidan goes to Lavender House, we can do go out for a meal or go swimming. Its vital for us as a family to have that time.”

Mrs Woodhouse says alternatives such as sending Aidan to stay with another family for care or adoption are not viable and that only services like Lavender House, which are secure and have trained staff, provide the level of care children like Aidan require.

She added:“Many families are in the same situation and if centres like Lavender House close it will lead to families breaking up. This will lead to children having to be taken into care and cost the state more than keeping these respite homes open.”

The authority’s cabinet member for families and children, Dick Madden, recently met with Mrs Woodhouse and other parents to hear their concerns.

He said: “I’ve stated right from the outset that families who currently receive support will continue to do so. What we want to provide is a menu of options for families to choose from, options that are right for them and their child.

“I’m very aware of the value parents and their children put on overnight respite provision and want to reassure them no changes will take place without other acceptable provision being in place, which will be done in consultation with the parents and children.”

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